This was first published at the end of Hedged, July 2016
Once upon a time, there was a teacher. He was old and weary, but his wit, seasoned by the years, was the perfect platform upon which to pass lessons to the next generations.
He loved teaching, and he was quite good at it. Young and old alike would travel from far away villages to listen to the old wizard speak.
His insights were simple, and he used plain language to reach as many minds as possible. The people were grateful for his seemingly simple logic and unique storytelling skills, not knowing that the easier it is to understand a story, the harder it was to tell. He smiled when their eyes brightened with understanding, the lesson learned—he could pick out the precise moment when a young mind grasped an ancient truth.
Soon, he was being called on to travel to many new villages. Other communities wanted to learn and be entertained by the old man. But alas, his days were numbered and there were only so many trips, lessons, and stories that could be fit into his remaining sojourn among the living—he had long felt the approaching end of his time.
A wise priest came to him one day. “You should write down your stories and let others share them far and wide,” he said. “With your simple words, so artfully arranged, you could open minds in far away places.”
“I’m just an old teacher,” the wrinkled old man said. “My stories may be something special here, in this small village. But the world is a big place. I’m afraid I’d be wasting my remaining time.”
“Nonsense. Your skill is superb, your stories are moving and the lessons are grasped with no effort. You are unique…a rare treasure,” the priest said, putting his arm around the old man.
The old man smiled, knowing the priest was artfully stroking his ego. The priest helped him to his chair and patted his shoulder. “Put your words to parchment…share your gift.”
The old wizard, worn bone weary from his long and adventurous life, settled into the comfort of his chair—something the old man had grown fond of in recent days; comfort. But he nodded. “If you think I have something worthy to share, I will put the words on paper.”
“Excellent,” the priest said with genuine joy. “It’s a wonderful thing you’ll be doing. You’ll see.”
So the old haggard hands began scribbling words. Hours passed and he didn’t even look up from his candle lit writing table—then days passed—then weeks, months, years. He looked up one day and saw a new sunrise outside his window and got up, stretching his back and arms. He walked to the window and felt a connection to the world as he stared into the brightening horizon over his garden. After a moment, he looked back at the piles of parchment he had scribbled his words on.
“That’s enough for now,” he said and proceeded to bundle the stacks with string before plodding across the village to the priest’s home.
He knocked on the door and left the papers on the doorstep. The door opened as he walked away. “So much!” the priest said. “You’ll surely touch many lives with your words.”
“We shall see,” the old teacher replied. “If they like it, I’ll write more.”
The priest nodded and scooped up the work, rushing it out to be copied and distributed to the far flung edges of the world. Days passed as the old man waited, regaining his strength from the long hours, days and months he had spent hunched over his writing table. And each day, he waited for the priest to bring him news of his stories—were they well received? Do they want more? Did they like the one about the boy who didn’t know he was special?
But each day the priest shook his head, sadly, having no news to share. With each passing day, the old wizard grew more withdrawn, having had his greatest fears realized; great skill is judged differently when compared to the whole of the world—his gift was small and his unsophisticated, simple language was not world worthy. And worse, he had wasted years of those precious few he had remaining.
Despair overwhelmed him and he left the comfort of his home to sit in the garden that his long passed wife had grown and left behind. He sat at the edge of the fountain and watched the water.
Soon, he came to realize he was being watched. He turned and looked over his shoulder to see a young girl, no more than seven or eight years old, lingering outside the garden gate.
“Are you spying on me young lady?” he asked, grinning playfully.
She shook her head shyly. “I want you to tell me a story.”
He smiled and lowered his head. “Later,” he said. “After I rest.”
She smiled and ran off, obviously excited the old wizard had agreed at all.
As he settled his back against the sun warmed stone, he thought back to those many years ago when he and his wife had built the fountain. Stone by stone, they had worked together to create this beautiful place of peace and warmth. The flowers and trees they had planted had grown large and filled in the once wide open spaces of the courtyard, just as she had planned years earlier.
He closed his eyes and smiled, his eyelids and cheeks kissed by the warm sun. “You planned and worked and look what you’ve done,” he whispered to his long departed wife. “Your work continues to grow and now it has become what you dreamed…even without you here to coax it. That is creativity.”
He breathed out softly, grateful to have been a part of her labor of love. “Thank you,” he said quietly, then breathed out his last breath.
Hours later when he was discovered, the village fell into despair. And as word traveled, many hundreds of thousands of people across the lands mourned the loss of the great story teller.
The priest stood at the gates and angrily blocked the way of the pilgrims. “You come now to pay your respects because you found his words so moving. Yet, while he lived and ached to know he had moved you, you returned only silence? Selfishly consuming his life’s work without so much as a thank you?”
He looked out over the silent masses who suddenly dropped their heads, ashamed to look at the priest.
“Go!” he said. “Walk past his house and say your prayers for his soul. But if none of his lessons pierce your hearts, let this one…give the gift of thanks to those who spill their lives so that your minds may grow…so that you may be inspired. Tell them so they will know their labors were not in vain.”
The moral of this story, as you have no doubt figured out, is that if you don’t leave a review, the author will die alone in a garden and a little girl will never hear the story she was promised…for reals. 😉
S.L. Shelton is the author of an Amazon Bestselling Thriller/Action Espionage Series, (The Scott Wolfe Series). Follow him here on WordPress, on Twitter @SLSheltonAuthor or Facebook. His wife is currently battling an aggressive, rare cancer. If you feel the desire to help, you can make a contribution at the GoFundMe that their daughter set up, or buy his books.